Israeli Kids Go Back to School With New ‘Jewish Values’ Curriculum

Israeli students will begin an intensive and comprehensive new program based largely on the Bible

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Bible, Judaism, Education
Photo: Yossi Zamir / Flash 90

“Jewish-Israeli Heritage” is a broad new program that has been added to the curriculum for the more than 2 million students beginning school on September 1st, 2019. 

The program, which has been developed for the Ministry of Education over the past few years, is designed for children entering first grade all the way up to their 12th grade high school graduation. Students will be exposed during their education to the multi-faceted world of Judaism, with emphasis on adapting Jewish values and their relevancy to life in modern Israel. 

The curriculum, which has been met with approval among a broad spectrum of religious and secular Israelis, will provide in-depth knowledge of historical Jewish culture to help students develop their identity as Jews and Israelis, but also as productive human beings. The Jewish-Israeli Heritage program is also geared toward deepening the Jewish-Israeli student’s ability to be attentive and respectful in dialogue with the various non-Jewish people groups living in the Jewish State.

Students will be introduced to influential Jewish writings and concepts throughout the ages concerned with: the individual (human dignity and the value of every human life); the family (fostering the family cell and the importance of the relationships between the child and his parents); the community (the cultivation of values like caring for others, philanthropy and civic responsibility); the State of Israel (recognition of the dignity and right of the other and different communities in the state); the Jewish people in the Diaspora (preserving contact with Jews around the world and strengthening awareness of Jewish culture throughout history); and all of humanity (social-democratic ideas about the right to live and speak).

The new curriculum emphasizes and reinforces the contribution of Jewish values ​​to those universal values ​​that are common to much of what might be called the “Judeo-Christian” Western world: the protection of human rights, human dignity and freedom.

Jewish-Israeli students will become familiar with the proverbs, sayings and poetry of the Jewish sages, the Bible and Jewish holidays and culture. They will be introduced to the biographies of exemplary Jews throughout history, like Maimonides and Ibn Gvirol, as well as modern Jewish-Israelis, like Rachel the poet and Haim Nachman Bialik.

The expansion of the program to include all school-aged children is intended to foster and deepen the Jewish-Zionist-Israeli identity of students and graduates of the state education system, and encourage greater responsibility and commitment to their people, heritage and culture.

Here are the top values that will be taught during the formative years, according to age brackets: 

First grade – Love your neighbor as yourself

Second grade – Teaching respect for parents and the value of family

Third grade – Friendship and leadership 

Fourth grade – Mutual responsibility one for another 

Fifth grade – Affinity for the people and Land of Israel 

Sixth grade – Tradition and renewal 

Seventh grade – Civic responsibility and involvement 

Eighth grade – Tikkun Olam (Jewish concept for restoring the world back to God’s will) 

Ninth grade – The value of human rights, liberty and dignity

All of these concepts will be studied, researched and evaluated in-depth by students during grades 10-12. 

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